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Swaffham councillors vote down coronavirus financial proposal for being restrictive

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A town councillor was accused of "behaving like a tinpot dictator" after proposing the authority should avoid financial risks during the pandemic.

Swaffham town councillor Ian Pilcher proposed the uncertain coronavirus period is "not the time for any unsecured investment risk" and asked for an embargo on any new and additional long term capital loans.

Mr Pilcher also proposed restraint on unqualified capital expenditure during "a very unusual and commercially challenging time, with no clarity of an end in sight".

Swaffham town councillors voted against a proposal by Residents4Residents councillor Ian Pilcher on Wednesday, October 14
Swaffham town councillors voted against a proposal by Residents4Residents councillor Ian Pilcher on Wednesday, October 14

But during Wednesday's full council meeting, councillor Lindsay Beech said she was "furious" with Mr Pilcher's motion.

She said: "How dare you take take away my right to vote on financial decisions which residents have elected me to do.

"You are behaving like a tinpot dictator. Has Swaffham become a banana republic?"

And councillor Judy Anscombe queried Mr Pilcher's proposal when the council already has financial regulations which covers any risk.

Councillor Colin Houghton agreed with this sentiment and asked if the motion was necessary.

Mr Houghton added: "In one sense should we not be allowed to look at schemes on individual merits? I am not really sure we should be restricted in the broader way you are suggesting."

Councillor Shirley Matthews told the meeting the proposal demonstrated a "lack of confidence" in the council.

And councillor Paul Darby argued financial decisions should come back to full council as he did not think the finance committee, chaired by Mr Pilcher, is working in the right way.

Residents4Residents councillor Graham Edwards referred to the council spending £70,000 on swimming pool land which is now of lesser valuation.

Councillor Wendy Bensley questioned why Mr Edwards was bringing up a decision taken 20-years-ago when many of the the current individuals were not on the council.

Mr Darby added the decision was based on public consultation and the land was purchased in "full confidence" that the town would be getting a swimming pool and land for a leisure centre.

Former deputy mayor Keith Sandle argued there seemed to be no issue with Mr Pilcher's proposal given the economic downturn.

"To be financially prudent seems sensible," he said. "I do not see the issue of how it's restricting anything given the economic situation."

Mr Pilcher said he did not want to sound like the "profit of doom" and was in favour of reinvestment of assets. He said the motion was in response to a "perilous situation".

The proposal was voted down by the council with Mr Pilcher, Mr Edwards and Mr Sandle the only three in favour of the motion.

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